July 17, 2017

Dear friends,
My three clumps of lavender have been waiting all their lives for Nancy Baggett’s latest book. I pounced when I saw The Art of Cooking with Lavender this spring.

I have known Nancy for years as a meticulous cookbook author — she has almost 20 — who triple-tests recipes on two types of stoves before sending them into the world. So I knew the recipes in her book would work.

I have tried just one of the recipes so far, but it’s a doozy. Lemon-Lavender Pots de Creme are voluptuously rich ramekins of the smoothest, silkiest custard you can imagine. The dominant flavor is fresh lemon, with an undertone of sweet lavender. Lemon and lavender were made for each other.

The book doesn’t stop at desserts, though. Recipes range from herbed popcorn to infused lemonade to stews and roasts. I’m looking forward to trying her Zippy Orange-Ginger Chicken Wings, Creamy Ranch Lavender Dressing and Lemon-Lavender Buttercream Frosting, among others.

The 122-page soft cover book is a trove of information about not only what to cook with lavender but how and what kind to grow. English lavenders such as Munstead (the variety I grow) are sweeter and milder than the more pungent French lavenders and for those reasons are best for culinary purposes. French lavenders are best for scent products, Nancy says. That’s lucky for us here in Ohio, because the delicate French varieties have a difficult time weathering our nasty winters. Spanish lavenders (L. stoechas) are purely ornamental and should not be used in cooking.

Lavender lovers with a plot out back have (or should have) harvested their crop by now. The stalks should be snipped when about the bottom third of the blossoms are partially open, according to the book. The blossoms may be used fresh or dried. I scattered my stalks on a table to dry and then transferred them to a plastic zipper-lock bag. Nancy recommends gathering the stalks into bunches and hanging them upside down to dry. I’ve done that, too.

The pots de creme call for two tablespoons of dried lavender, which is a surprisingly large amount, I found. The buds are measured after they are stripped from the stalk, and many stalks’ worth go into a tablespoon.

I made the recipe twice because the first was a dismal failure. The fault was mine, not the recipe’s. I tried to reduce the amount of calories and fat in the custard by using whole milk instead of heavy cream. I learned that acids like lemon juice will curdle milk, but not cream. So don’t try to be virtuous with this recipe.

The book may be purchased for $15.99 from Amazon or directly from the author at www.nancyslavenderplace.com.

  • 2 cups heavy (whipping) cream
  • 1/4 cup clover honey
  • 3 to 4 tbsp. sugar, to taste
  • 2 tbsp. dried culinary lavender buds
  • 1 tbsp. lemon zest
  • Pinch of salt
  • 7 large egg yolks, lightly beaten with a fork
  • 1/4 cup strained fresh lemon juice
  • Whipped cream for garnish (optional)
  • Fresh lavender blooms or sprigs for garnish (optional)
  • Fresh curls of lemon peel for garnish (optional)

In a medium nonreactive saucepan, bring the cream, honey, sugar, lavender, lemon zest and salt just to a boil, stirring until the honey and sugar dissolve. Turn off the heat and let mixture steep for at least 30 minutes, preferably one hour.. For a more intense flavor, cover and refrigerate an hour or two longer, tasting occasionally until the desired lavender flavor is achieved.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees with a rack in the middle position. Lay a tea towel in a deep roasting pan or baking dish large enough to hold 6 to 8 ramekins that ideally hold 2/3 cup each. Place ramekins or cups in pan, spaced slightly apart. Reheat the steeped cream mixture to very warm but not hot.

In a large bowl, whisk the egg yolks until frothy and smooth. Gradually pouring in a thin stream, whisk the warm cream mixture into the egg yolks. Whisk in the lemon juice. Strain the custard mixture through a fine mesh sieve into a 4-cup glass measure, stirring and pressing down on the zest and lavender. Divide equally among the ramekins. Put in oven.

Immediately pour enough hot water into the roasting pan to come at least halfway up sides of ramekins.

Bake 20 minutes at 325 degrees. Begin testing by jiggling a custard cup. As soon as the creme is set except for about the center one-half inch, remove pan from oven. Place custards on a cooling rack until room temperature. Cover and refrigerate for up to 3 days. Let warm up slightly before serving. Garnish with whipped cream and/or lavender flowers or lemon curls. Makes 6 small or 8 mini desserts.

From The Art of Cooking with Lavender by Nancy Baggett.


Local corn should be ready for picking any day now. Rufener Hilltop Farms in Portage County will “hopefully” start picking this week, says manager Lana Rufener. “At the latest by (this) weekend.”

At Graf Growers on White Pond Drive in Akron, “local” this year will actually be a farm about 45 minutes south of Akron, according to Karlie Graf, marketing manager. Graf’s fields were too wet for planting this spring, so the Grafs contracted with another farm to grow corn using Graf seeds and techniques, such as hydrocooling the picked corn. Daily shipments should begin July 18, Karlie says.

Wherever you buy your corn, call first to avoid a disappointment.


What I cooked last week:
Pan-grilled strip steaks, cherry tomato salad with walnut pesto; salami and avocado on toasted ciabatta bread; beer butt chicken, tomato salad with pesto; grilled hamburgers, corn on the cob; lemon-lavender pots de creme.

What I ate in restaurants/friends’ homes last week:
Green salad, fried liver and onions, mashed potatoes with a smidge of gravy at Alexandri’s in Wadsworth; shrimp sunomono, a Suzanne roll (a Jane roll with spicy mayo) at Sushi Katsu in Akron; roast pig, smoked brisket, corn bread, baked beans, mac and cheese, a chocolate chip cookie at Natalie and Brandon’s pig roast; brunch of smoked salmon hash, poached egg and hollandaise sauce at 111 Bistro in Medina Township; Thai red curry with chicken and vegetables at House of Hunan in Fairlawn.


From Arlene:

Jane, I was wondering if you have any idea how to marinate garlic. Giant Eagle has some on its salad bar that is very good. I looked up a pickled garlic recipe that I made and I really don’t like it — too sweet and not what I expected. Then I realized the salad bar garlic isn’t pickled. It stays white and has a crunch and is not bitter or sweet.

I would appreciate any ideas you may have. My brother-in-law eats several daily and lowered his cholesterol to the point his meds were reduced. Healthy snacks!

Dear Arlene: My husband likes to snack on garlic, too, although he usually buys the pickled kind in jars. What you are looking for is marinated garlic. Here’s one from food.com. Tinker with the herbs until the flavor is to your liking.


  • 30 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 1⁄2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1⁄4 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 1⁄4 cup white wine vinegar (if you can find it, champagne vinegar is wonderful)
  • Salt and fresh ground pepper to taste (I like to use Kosher salt)
  • 4 sprigs fresh oregano (or 1/2 tsp. dried oregano)

Bring a medium saucepan half-filled with water to a boil. Toss in the whole cloves of garlic and blanch for 5 minutes. Remove the garlic and plunge into cold water. Drain and dry off the garlic.

Mix the remaining ingredients (except the sprigs of fresh oregano) in a blender until emulsified. If using dried oregano, toss into the blender with the other marinade ingredients.

Put the cloves of garlic in a jar and cover with the marinade. Tuck the sprigs of oregano into the jar. Cover and allow to marinate for at least 5 days (longer is better) in the refrigerator. Serve as a snack, or as part of an antipasto, or as a side dish, or add to a green salad.

From Martha, Kent:
I don’t have the gardening success that you apparently do, but I have always been able to grow basil in pots on my back deck. But this year, something — some sort of bug, I assume — is eating the basil leaves! Instead of shiny, full leaves I’ve got munched up, mangled leaves. Do you have any idea what is eating the basil this year, and if there is anything I can do about it?

Dear Martha: My “gardening success” is a myth. I write about my garden fondly but it rarely returns the affection. This year I planted sugar snaps in April and just harvested the first handful of beans. I’ll be lucky if I get enough for a stir fry. My little row (about 4 feet) of French green beans was attacked by insects and the leaves look brown and chewed. But they have a few blossoms so I’m not giving up hope! The tomato plants I grew from seeds are not wilted and brown yet, so I am excited about an eventual crop.

My lone success so far this year (besides the wild black raspberries) is my basil. It is bushy and lush. I have had your basil problems in the past, though. From the photos you sent, the culprits are probably slugs, which eat great hunks of leaves instead of pinpricks that leave a lacy skeleton (for that problem, blame Japanese beetles.

This information comes from www.gardenknowhow.com:
“To retard those munching slugs, try sprinkling diatomaceous earth over the mulch. The diatomaceous earth scrapes the slug’s skin and causes it to dehydrate and subsequently die. Products such as Bayer Advanced Dual Action Snail and Slug Killer Bait, Sluggo, Escar-Go, and Schultz Slug and Snail Bait must be reapplied after rain or watering. While not totally nontoxic, these products contain iron phosphate, which is significantly less harmful to pets, birds and beneficial insects than the more antiquated metaldehyde-containing products.”

Hmmm. The phrase “not totally nontoxic” worries me. You’ll have to wash the basil leaves before you use them.

From Tammy:
I want to weigh in on the soy milk issue. I am not lactose intolerant nor am I a vegetarian but I love soy milk. I do not cook or bake with soy milk, nor do I see it as a substitute for the “real thing” but the taste is different from milk and I enjoy it. I have never had almond milk, cashew milk or flavored soy milk so my opinion is limited. I do love edamame and tofu in all forms so maybe this has something to do with it.

From Beth:
Try Califa unsweetened almond milk. The green one, there are several colors of packaging. Great on cereal.

Dear Tammy and Beth: I may gather my courage and try plain soy milk, but I’m wary of nut milk after the cashew fiasco.

From Tami W.:
Regarding lamb, I wanted to give a second shout out for Duma Meats. All their meats are wonderful — and we always make the drive to Portage County when we want to cook beer butt chicken. You can taste the difference! Duma’s prices are also much lower than grocery stores.

Dear Tami: I’m sold. I’ve bought whole pigs from Duma for roasting, but have never made the trip for regular cuts. I must remedy that.

From Cheryl:
Crown rack of lamb, leg of lamb and nice chops can be found at Sams Club. The racks got rave reviews from our ladies’ lunch group when I served them grilled (cherry smoked) with homemade pomegranate molasses, grilled asparagus, grilled smashed potatoes with rosemary butter and my signature lemon lavender martinis. I love my friends.

Dear Cheryl: And we would all love to be one of them. Currently, Sam’s is my source for lamb. The price is good and the lamb is pretty good, too. I’m just hoping to find a local source with reasonable prices, which may be a pipe dream.

From Janet:
Your were hunting for lamb. And I do not know if this would be a solution: Arukah Market Health and Wellness. It is located at 2871 Edison St. in Lake Township west of the Hartville Flea Market in a house on the north side of the street. There is a website. The changing sign out front mentions bison, goat and elk. Everything is natural. I have not been there but the reviews are good.

Dear Janet:
Thanks for the tip. I’ve seen the sign for the store but didn’t notice anything about bison, goat or elk. Exciting! I called and talked to owner John Taylor, who said he does get lamb sporadically from a local farm. The store had ground lamb and one leg of lamb when I called. The leg was $11.97 a pound.

To everyone who suggested Spicy Lamb Farm, Brunty’s and other local boutique operations, I am aware of them but they are out of my price range — as is Arukah. But I may stop by for some elk.

Winner of two James Beard Awards for food writing.

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July 5, 2017

Dear friends,

My legs are scratched and I have poison ivy on one wrist, but that’s a price I willingly pay for black raspberry pie. This is the summer of the wild berry. The black raspberries are running rampant here in Ohio, and I have no doubt blackberries will be next.

The overgrown patch of wild black raspberries between my greenhouse and shed is out of control, sending rogue canes over, around and into the greenhouse. In years past I have collected handfuls of berries to eat with my morning yogurt. This year I have harvested quarts of berries and haven’t even hacked my way beyond the perimeter of the thicket. I urge you to go to the woods, find a clearing and start picking.

For the first time I have enough berries for a pie. Initially I made a galette, a simple tart of a pastry round covered with about two cups of berries and the edges folded over to form about a 2-inch rim. The next day I picked a quart and reached for a 9-inch pie pan. I used refrigerator pie crust for the bottom crust (my shoulder injury is worse, not better) and devised a spur-of-the-moment crumb mixture for the topping.

I didn’t use a recipe for the pie and you needn’t, either, for the fruit you pick or buy this summer. Just remember that a galette bakes in about 30 minutes and a pie in 60 minutes at 400 degrees.

Because fruits vary in juiciness, you may have to look up how much thickener to stir into the filling. Four cups of black raspberries (the amount needed for a pie) require 3 tablespoons flour. I didn’t use sugar in the filling because the berries were sweet enough. Use your judgement, but in any case go easy on the sugar to allow the fruit flavor to shine.

The formula for a crumb topping is 1/3 cup oats, 1/3 cup flour, 5 tablespoons butter and about a half cup sugar. I substituted three tablespoons Splenda for the sugar. You might want to add a few shakes of salt, too. The butter is cut into the dry ingredients with a pastry blender until the bits are the size of peas. To this basic topping recipe you can add cinnamon, nutmeg or other spices. You may season the filling, too, if desired. Sometimes I add a few drops of almond extract to peach pie filling, for example.

Save this column and stash a box of pie pastry in your fridge. Then whenever you come across a trove of fruit this summer, you’ll be just minutes away from slipping a pie into the oven. What’s that old saying? And some days there’s pie.



  • 1 pastry disk for a 9-inch pie
  • 1/3 cup oats
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup sugar (or 3 tbsp. Splenda granular)
  • Several dashes of salt
  • 5 tbsp. cold butter, in small pieces
  • 4 cups black (or red) raspberries
  • 3 tbsp. flour

Leave pastry at room temperature for about 15 minutes, until pliable. Ease into a 9-inch pie pan. Fold under the edges and crimp. Place in refrigerator.

In a bowl, combine oats, the 1/3 cup flour, sugar and salt. Stir together. Cut butter into the dry ingredients with a pastry blender until it’s the size of peas. Refrigerate.

Gently wash berries by floating in cold water or by very gently running water over them in a strainer. Spread on paper towels to dry. Place in a bowl and toss with the 3 tablespoons flour.

Remove pie crust and topping from refrigerator. Pour berries onto the pie crust. Top evenly with the crumbs. Bake at 400 degrees (375 if using a glass pan) on the middle oven rack for about 60 minutes, until crust is dark brown and fruit is tender. Makes 1 pie.


What I cooked last week:
Black raspberry galette; black raspberry crumb pie; sweet soy-glazed pork chops with a platter of oven-roasted red bell peppers, Anaheim peppers and new potatoes with olive oil, coarse sea salt and chopped fresh basil over arugula; and thick pan-grilled hamburgers on ciabatta buns with roasted red peppers, onions and mustard.

What I ate last week in/from restaurants:
Ribeye and gorgonzola sandwich and a few thin fries at Johnny’s Downtown in Cleveland; chicken and vegetable rotini from Earth Fare; peanuts and a hot dog with mustard at Progressive Field in Cleveland; a California roll, tuna and crab poke salad, and coconut-curry noodles with jumbo shrimp at Basil Asian Bistro in Canton; a thin veggie pizza from Earth Fare; and a fruit cup, toast and a two-egg omelet with feta cheese, onion, mushrooms and tomato at the Eye Opener in Akron.


I finally tasted soy milk last week — specifically, cashew soy milk, which my doctor recommended. Until now I have resisted the soy-milk fad, stubbornly clinging to my beloved skim milk, which I use in puddings, protein shakes, for baking and cooking, and occasionally straight up.

The verdict: Cashew soy milk is no competition for the real thing. It tasted like a No. 2 pencil. I’m serious. Sink your teeth into a yellow pencil and inhale. Then take a sip of cashew soy milk. Am I right? Besides, It is grayish-tan, a hell of a color for something you’re supposed to consume.

I am mystified why so many non-vegetarian, non-lactose intolerant people have switched to soy milk. Please enlighten me.

P.S.: And don’t tell me it’s because milk is inflammatory. Dairy products do not cause inflammation, according to the National Institutes of Health and the Mayo Clinic, both of which cite a review of 52 clinical studies that disprove that widely disseminated falsehood. In fact, dairy products may alleviate inflammation.



From George, Akron:
About where you can buy some good lamb: One, Canal Fulton Provision — they sell to restaurants as well as the public; and two, Near East Market, 3464 Hudson Drive in Cuyahoga Falls — I believe you wrote about them in a newsletter from a galaxy a long, long time ago.

Dear George: I remember that galaxy, where we were all much younger. I haven’t had much luck with Near East Market the last few visits. The lamb in the freezer was scant and the owners didn’t want to talk about it. Canal Fulton Provision sounds like a hot lead, though. Thanks.

From Maryann:
For lamb — and nearly every other edible critter that can be portioned, wrapped and frozen — try Duma Meats on 857 Randolph Rd. in Mogadore. A second site in Hartville Marketplace is expansive, too, with fresh meat. But for the full ark, the Duma home place has it and is worth the drive.

Also, I have a new food find for you. Hidden in the new center at the NEO College of Medicine, Chef Xavier holds court in fine, fine form. I have only had lunches, as food service stops about 2 p.m. But it’s always a treat — unique dressings on unique and fresh made-to-order salads. Everything from PBJ to black bean hummus on naan bread. He also hosts special cooking events as part of the Wellness Center programs on improved health through healthy eating. Although it is a small cafeteria-style station for getting folks in and out quickly, the vibe is good as is every dish I have eaten there. Check it out at the Rootstown exit of I-77. The med school is easy to find and parking is easy as well.

Dear Maryann: If Tony and I are ever near the med school around lunch time (it happens), we will stop. And thanks for the lamb tip. The lamb at Duma is reasonable, too. I called and was told leg of lamb is $6.95 a pound bone-in and $7.95 a pound boneless.

From Bill:
Jane, there is an Indian grocery store in Cuyahoga Falls, across from Acme on Front Street/Bailey Road next to Jubilee Donuts, a few doors down from Strickland’s ice cream and Ninnies Hot Dogs and the River Grille, around the corner from the Silver Swan Tavern and Totally Cooked. You might find naan there or just a good meal in the neighborhood. If you need to take Tony you can drop him off at Hudson Drive Hardware — a real old-fashioned hardware store.

Dear Bill: Well, now I can’t wait to walk that neighborhood. Maybe I’ll just move in. Thanks, Bill, for all the ideas.

From Linda Bower:
I really like your “what I ate” and “what I cooked” parts of your column. I like to see what restaurants you go to. It gives me ideas for places that I want to check out for myself. As far as “what I cooked,” sometimes I want to know the details or the recipe of something you cooked. For example, last week you said you cooked strip steaks with wine sauce. How did you make your wine sauce?

Dear Linda: I am always glad to share details. The wine sauce was simple. After cooking and removing the meat from the skillet, I added about three-fourths cup of leftover red wine I had on hand. I think it was a pinot noir. I added a few drops of Worcestershire sauce and brought it to a boil, scraping the browned bits from the bottom of the pan. I let it boil for a minute or two until reduced by a third to a half, then whisked in a few bits of cold butter. Very basic.

From Marcia, New Franklin:
Oh my, grilled double-cream gouda and roasted pineapple on toasted sourdough? Sounds wonderful! What’s your take on how the Blue Door fixes it?

Dear Marcia: The Blue Door’s $11 grilled cheese sandwich is worth every cent. The cheese layer is not thick and gooey. In fact, it melts almost completely into the bread. But imagine the best thick-cut sourdough toast you’ve had, with just the right tang countered by the richness of that wisp of cheese…. and I haven’t even gotten to the pineapple yet. The sandwich is the opposite of a Melt grilled cheese in conception. It is elegantly understated, letting a few outstanding ingredients speak for themselves.

Winner of two James Beard Awards for food writing.

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June 28, 2017

Dear friends,

l grew up with Jamie, graduated high school with him, and remained close to him and his family even after our 13-year marriage ended. I didn’t expect to be making cabbage rolls for his Polish wake at age 67.

Tony declined the invitation to accompany me to my ex brother-in-law’s home Sunday, but he would have been welcome. Jamie and Tony were friendly, and my ex would stop in the restaurant to share clutches of morel mushrooms he picked each spring.

Jamie will forever be a part of my culinary history. With him I explored the restaurants of Italy, England and France. He was there when I ate my first snail, tasted my first Camembert and discovered cioppino. I remember when he cracked up a restaurant in Italy where we were the only (we thought) English speakers by too-loudly responding to my whispered confession with “How can you be off your feed when you’re doing Europe on 20,000 calories a day?”
His brother, Bill, decided on a Polish wake because it seemed the right way to celebrate Jamie’s fun, quirky personality and his heritage. Bill didn’t intend to set up a cabbage roll smack-down between me and cousin Tammy, but that just became part of the fun.

Polish sisters Bernie (Jamie’s late mother) and Sophie (absent with a broken arm) prided themselves on their cabbage rolls. The recipes were similar but not identical. Without planning to, Tammy made her mother Sophie’s recipe and I made Bernie’s for the wake. Jamie’s brothers and cousins had a good time lobbying for a cabbage roll face-off, but Tam and I called it a draw.

My ex mother-in-law taught me to make these cabbage rolls. The deep flavors belie the straightforward ingredients of cabbage, ground beef, rice and tomato juice. It is a dish made in heaven — which, if there’s justice in the universe, is where Jamie is enjoying some now.



  • 1 large head cabbage
  • 2 1/4 lbs. ground beef
  • 1 cup white rice, cooked according to package directions
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 1 egg
  • Salt, pepper
  • 2 quarts tomato juice

Core cabbage, steam or boil briefly and separate into leaves. Drain.

In a bowl, combine beef, cooked rice, onion, egg, salt and pepper. Add 1 cup of the tomato juice; mix gently but thoroughly. The mixture should be very moist.

Place a mound of filling on the stem end of a cabbage leaf and roll up, tucking sides inward as you roll.

Continue with remaining filling.

Place a layer of leftover cabbage leaves on the bottom of a wide kettle. Layer stuffed rolls on top.

Combine 1 cup of the remaining tomato juice with 1/2 cup water. Pour over rolls. Cover with more cabbage leaves. Cover with a lid and gently simmer until filling is cooked and cabbage is tender, about 2 hours. Remove cabbage rolls and add remaining tomato juice to sauce in pan. Heat and pass at the table.


More than a dozen of you said you like this feature and only one said she has had enough, so I will continue. Many writers said they like to hear what I ate because it gives them ideas for meals to cook and/or restaurants to visit. I like it because it encourages me to visit different restaurants each week so I won’t seem boring, and cook meals that won’t embarrass me. But I still won’t give up Spam

What I cooked last week:
Lots and lots of cabbage rolls; avocado and soft-scrambled egg on buttered ciabatta toast; lemon-lavender pots de creme (a disaster); grilled thick hamburgers; fried left over cabbage roll stuffing mixture scrambled with an egg (desperation dinner).

What I ate at friends’ homes last week:
Minted cold pea soup, cold salmon terrine, a platter of roast fingerling potatoes with herbs, roast tomatoes and roast peaches, and apple rum cake at Raymond and Doris’; cold strawberry soup, stuffed BLT cherry tomatoes and Belgian endive with Bellinis, Korean bulgogi (tender marinated, grilled beef) in lettuce wraps, and fruit kolachy at a potluck with friends Martha, Joan and Michele; grilled hamburgers, potato salad and sugar-free raspberry pie at my brother’s; and cabbage rolls, macaroni salad, scalloped potatoes, carrot salad and carrot cake with cream cheese icing at my ex brother-in-law’s. I was a real social butterfly last week.

What I ate in restaurants last week:
A taste of Tony’s chicken pasta with diavolo sauce and half a burrito-like sandwich of warm, cheesy flatbread wrapped around sliced spicy sausage, peppers, romaine and mozzarella at Piada in West Akron; beef with broccoli and Sichuan chicken from Chin’s near Tangier in Akron; grilled double-cream gouda and roasted pineapple on toasted sourdough, tomato soup with a balsamic syrup squiggle, and diced fresh fruit at the Blue Door in Cuyahoga Falls.


Piada Italian Street Food, a fast-food Italian, opened two weeks ago in the former West Point Market block in Akron’s Wallhaven area. Lines wrapped around the building the first week, a manager told me, and the place was very busy when Tony and I visited during week two.

Although I have seen some disparaging comments on Facebook, I thought the food was very good for the price. The Columbus-based chain is modeled on Chipotle, with a front counter where diners choose pasta, sandwich or salad; various sauces and toppings; and protein (sausage, fried or grilled chicken cubes, steak cubes, meatball, calamari and hot peppers, or grilled salmon). Main choices all cost about $7 to $8 plus protein, which ranges from 99 cents to $2.49. The pasta choices are angel hair carbonara, pesto or diavolo (a spicy red sauce).

I liked the wheat flatbread that serves as the sandwich wrap. It’s thin as a tortilla but tastier because it is embedded with Parmesan cheese and warmed up on a crepe griddle until the edges are crispy. I also liked that calorie counts for all of the items are printed on the menu.

The Akron Piada is the latest restaurant in the rapidly expanding chain owned by the Bravo Brio folks. The website is www.mypiada.com.



From Mark:
I am SO eager to read responses to your query about local purveyors of lamb.

USDA standards defining “lamb” as opposed to “mutton” must be less stringent about the age and growth than they are in, say, New Zealand and Australia. The shrink-wrapped stuff marketed locally seems mighty long-in-the-tooth, though I guess at least one country’s standards for calling it “lamb” includes limitations on the animal’s advancement towards full adult dentition.

From Deborah:
We are searching for lamb as well. Lately, we’ve been able to purchase it at the Countryside Conservancy Farmers’ Market on Saturdays at Howe Meadow and at Acme No. 1 in very limited supply.

Dear Mark and Deborah: We must be a small club of lamb lovers, because no one else responded. Or maybe they just don’t want to tip us off to their supplier. I will continue to search. Too bad the Middle Eastern market on Graham Road in Cuyahoga Falls has become such an inconsistent source. Anyone have any Lebanese/Middle Eastern friends they can query?

As for lamb vs mutton, the USDA basically has no mandatory standards. All lamb in stores is USDA inspected for wholesomeness (freedom from disease), but grading for quality is voluntary. The quality gradings (prime, choice and good) take into account tenderness, juiciness, flavor and — but one criterion — maturity. According to the USDA, 80 percent of the U.S. lamb supply is good or choice. But I guess if you want to make sure your lamb is indeed young, you have to see it on the hoof.

From Janet C.:
I love to hear what you cooked and what you ate out. I always find new places to try.

Recent things I cooked: Stuffed shells with spaghetti sauce and sausage, Caesar salad, and brown sugar shortbread drizzled with white Belgian chocolate. I’m going to a barbecue on Sunday with friends. Taking deviled eggs with chopped jalapeños and sweet relish, a shrimp dip that I serve with Bugles, and puff pastry appetizers with cremini mushrooms, smoked gruyere and caramelized onions. I told my friends I would bring the appetizers.

I’m going to the Desert Inn in Canton for the Mid-Eastern grilled platter for our anniversary this week and to the bar at Russo’s in Cuyahoga Falls for raw oysters and the roasted garlic appetizer for my birthday. I’m going to Trump Tower in Toronto tomorrow night for my very favorite, steak tartare. I cannot find it many places in Ohio unless we drive to Cleveland. If you know of any place near Akron that serves it, please let me know.

Dear Janet: Yay, a reciprocal gut check! Thank you for sharing. You have reminded me of places to revisit and foods I want to eat.

Does anyone know of an Akron restaurant where Janet can get steak tartare?

Winner of two James Beard Awards for food writing.

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Please tell your friends about my blog site (https://janesnowtoday.wordpress.com/), where you can find not only each week’s newsletter but archives of past newsletters.

June 22, 2017

Dear friends,

No potatoes. No cabbage. No macaroni. A bag of carrots was the only fodder I had for a picnic salad to go with the ribs that were slow-smoking on the grill. “I’ll make carrot slaw,” I thought. “I bet no one has thought of that before.”

Ha! The Internet and a zillion food bloggers have ensured that every dish I dream up these days has been dreamed up before. When I Googled “carrot slaw,” I got 675,000 hits.

The way I deal with this overload is to ignore it. I create most of my recipes without looking at versions that have come before. That is the only way I can remain fresh and come up with something new tailored to (hopefully) your tastebuds and mine.

The slaw recipe was also tailored to my pantry. I had just bought a bag of walnut halves, so I toasted some in a skillet for added crunch. I found some crumbled feta in the fridge and added that, too, for little bursts of creaminess. The herbs in pots out back were ready for harvesting, so I plucked some basil and rosemary to add freshness to a mustard vinaigrette. Everything came together in a slaw that not only is unique — I think — but delicious.

Make that 675,001 hits for “carrot slaw.”



  • 4 cups grated carrots (on the large holes of a box grater)
  • 1/4 cup walnut pieces
  • 1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 3 tbsp. red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 tbsp. Dijon mustard
  • 2 tbsp. chopped fresh basil
  • 1/4 tsp. chopped fresh rosemary

Grate carrots into a medium-size serving bowl. Scatter walnut pieces in a dry skillet and toast over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until nuts are golden brown. Cool, then add to carrots with feta cheese.

In a small lidded container combine olive oil, vinegar, salt, mustard, basil and rosemary. Shake well to combine. Pour about half of dressing over carrot mixture, tossing to coat evenly. Add more dressing only if needed. Season to taste with more salt. Makes about six servings.


What I cooked last week:

Scrambled egg, ham and feta cheese on a toasted baguette with hot sauce; grill-smoked ribs with Tennessee rub and spicy barbecue sauce, carrot and toasted walnut slaw; strip steaks with wine sauce, balsamic-roasted cauliflower.

What I ate in restaurants last week:
Thai chicken salad at Panera; a Coney dog and a sugar-free country apple pie ice cream cone (1 scoop) at Boss Frosty’s in Wadsworth; soft Indian paratha bread dipped in egg, fried, and folded around curry-seasoned chicken and sautéed onions (the Frankie) at Greedy Girl Restaurant in Cleveland Heights; a BLT at Rockne’s in Fairlawn; huitlacoche spoonbread, half a Cuban sandwich and half a chorizo-sweet potato-pineapple burrito at Nuevo Modern Mexican Restaurant in downtown Akron; and a steak sandwich and excellent fries at the Canal Boat Lounge in Canal Fulton.

Note: In my defense, I couldn’t cook for a few days after I fell and injured a shoulder. I’ll be back in the kitchen soon.


Dear friends: I know summer is dawning and you’re busy, but could you spare a minute to dash off a note? Tell me how your tomatoes are growing and whether you lost herbs last winter like I did (my thyme and tarragon mysteriously died).

Tell me where I can buy good, reasonably priced lamb, because I’m stumped.

Tell me where you go for Thai food. Tell me where I can buy naan. Tell me whether you like my
what-I-ate-last-week feature or if you’ve heard quite enough.

Basically, just write.

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Please tell your friends about my blog site (https://janesnowtoday.wordpress.com/), where you can find not only each week’s newsletter but archives of past newsletters.

June 9, 2017

Dear friends,

My husband’s citizenship and English classes finally paid off last weekend. He has been attending classes three evenings a week since February in his quest to finally become an American citizen. No, he didn’t pass his naturalization test yet (that’s scheduled for June 26); even better, we got to attend the annual English as a Second Language potluck picnic at Patterson Park in Akron on Saturday.

The spread was humongous and as diverse as I’d hoped. I hovered near a stack of San Salvadoran pupusas before the meal began, waiting for the signal to dive in. I snagged one of the corn cakes stuffed with pork and nibbled while I surveyed the other offerings. There were dishes from Nepal, Myanmar, Bhutan and Guatemala. I lfound a pot of Thai chicken curry and a big tub of Nepali chatpati, a crunchy-spicy snack with a dozen or more ingredients. Rebecca Jenkins, the ESOL coordinator, steered me to circlet of Nepali fried bread the size of an onion ring, and returned later for a sliver of Mexican tres leches (three milk) cake.

Tony’s contribution was big platters of inari sushi (pockets of sweetened tofu skin stuffed with seasoned sushi rice) and homemade tamago (a seasoned, layered omelet). I took an all-American dessert: Red, White and Blue Bread Pudding.

The pudding is assembled in five layers — three layers of custard-soaked bread cubes interleaved with a layer of blueberries and a layer of halved strawberries. I sprinkled the fruit layers with sherry for extra flavor. Although my bread pudding was way prettier than Tony’s offerings, his platters were empty when we left while only half of my pudding had been eaten. Go figure. The pudding tasted great, though, and would be a wonderful Fourth of July dessert.

The English classes, by the way, are under the aegis of Project Learn of Summit County. Even though Tony has been in this country for more than 30 years and speaks very passable English, he has been taking classes at the International Institute in Akron in preparation for the citizenship test. Sadly, his vocabulary is being rid of charming phrases such as “Project Runaway” and “pickle little” (a small cucumber). Darn it.

Here’s my bread pudding recipe:


22 oz. sturdy white sandwich bread
6 tbsp. butter, melted
6 cups milk
5 eggs
1 cup sugar
2 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. salt
2 cups blueberries
1 cup halved or quartered strawberries, depending on size
2 tbsp. dry or medium-dry sherry

Cut bread into 1/2-inch cubes. Place in a very large bowl. Drizzle with butter, tossing to coat evenly.

In another large bowl, whisk together milk and eggs. Beat in sugar, vanilla and salt. Pour over bread cubes and let stand several minutes while you butter a 9-by-12-inch baking pan.

Ladle about one-third of the bread cube mixture into the prepared pan. Scatter blueberries over the bread cubes. Drizzle evenly with one tablespoon of the sherry. Cover evenly with another one-third of the bread cube mixture. Scatter strawberries over the bread and drizzle with remaining sherry. Top with remaining bread cubes and custard mixture.

Bake at 375 degrees for about 1 hour, or pudding is puffed and edges are brown. Makes about 8 servings.


What I cooked last week:
Rosemary crackers; deconstructed chicken stir fry with rice sticks and spicy orange sauce; red, white and blue bread pudding; thick strip steaks with red-wine sauce, an arugula and Parmesan salad with balsamic vinaigrette, and Japanese sweet potatoes.

What I ate in restaurants last week:
Stir-fry bowl of quinoa, sauteed greens with garlic, and grilled chicken in red curry at Mustard Seed in Highland Square; pesto and chicken pizza at Pizza Fire in Montrose; pupusas, coconut curry, chatpati, tres leches cake and more at the Project Learn picnic; eggs, bacon, grits and toast at Tony’s favorite restaurant, Bob Evans.

From Kathi: Re: Removing the back bone from the chicken when you spatchcock. I always cut up both sides with heavy-duty poultry shears, but I never discard it; it goes into the big resealable freezer bag that lives in the freezer, where I stash all the wing tips, necks and fat globs pulled off the cavity. When the bag is full, it becomes stock.

Dear Kathi: Geez, you’e organized. You have shamed me into starting my own frozen-chicken-parts bag.

From Debbie: You can get the Korean dish bi bim bap at Sung’s Restaurant at Playhouse Square in Cleveland. I think it’s $13. I always get the egg over easy so the yolk runs down into the rice. You can get it with chicken, beef or tofu.

From Tom: I just saw the tip about the Columbus restaurant offering dol sot bi bim bap. While I will be putting this place on my list for the next time I visit Columbus, I wanted to let you know there is a very good version of dol sot bi bim bap at Seoul Garden on State Road in Cuyahoga Falls. Actually, all of the Korean food is pretty darn tasty there.

By the way, the spicy “sauce” the gentleman mentioned that you drizzle onto your bi bim bap is usually a combination of gochujang, rice wine vinegar, and I’m guessing probably a little sugar. Happy eating!

Dear Debbie and Tom: Thanks for the closer-to-home recommendations. I am not crazy about many Korean dishes (I loathe kimchi), but I will give bi bim bap another try. Gochujang, for the uninitiated, is Korean fermented hot chili paste.

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June 1, 2017

Dear friends,

I am afflicted with food obsessions. I have written about my ongoing watermelon obsession, triggered by a contestant on Jeopardy! who told Alex she eats a watermelon a day (I do not approach her consumption level). I also used to have a peanut butter obsession that began when a doctor lamented in his newspaper health column that he ate too much peanut butter. “Heyyy,” my subconscious apparently thought, “here’s something I can get into.”

My new obsession is rosemary crackers. I thought I could tame the itch simply by avoiding Big Lots, where I discovered the phenomenal Sfiziosi Il Grano D’Oro Di Puglia — loosely translated, the golden wheat crackers of Puglia, the latter a region of Italy where the product is made.

The chubby little square crackers are made with semolina flour, white wine, olive oil, rosemary and other good stuff that produces a texture like no other — kind of sandy like shortbread, but with a satisfying crunch.

I had this obsession tamed by avoidance until I saw a bag of semolina flour at Acme. Then the rosemary I planted last month started shooting up like crazy. I had already read the list of ingredients on the bag of crackers. The recipe slowly came together in my mind.

I baked three batches of the crackers, tinkering with ingredient amounts to adjust the texture and intensify the rosemary flavor. The second batch tasted exactly like rosemary shortbread sans sugar, and I can see it as a crust for, say, quiche. Maybe later. The third batch was close, and that’s the recipe I am sharing. Although the crackers are delicious, I hope that consuming about 50 of them in two days(Tony ate the rest) has cured my rosemary-cracker obsession. Now onto Popsicles.

Chubby Rosemary Crackers.jpg
  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup semolina flour
  • 1 tbsp. finely minced fresh rosemary leaves
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 6 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1/4 cup (or more) white wine

Measure flours into the bowl of a food processor. Add rosemary and salt and pulse several times to mix. With the motor running, drizzle the olive oil into the feed tube. Begin adding the wine is a thin stream, stopping when the dough forms one big clump. You may not need all of the wine, or you may need more.

Pat dough evenly into a 9-inch-square baking pan lined with parchment paper. With a sharp knife, cut into six strips in each direction to produce squares. Do not cut through to the parchment paper. Prick each square once with a fork.

Bake at 400 degrees for about 35 minutes, or until the top begins to turn golden brown. Remove from oven and slide parchment and dough onto a cutting board. Cool 10 minutes, then remove paper and cut again to separate the squares. Cool completely before storing in a sealed plastic bag. Makes about 36 crackers.



What I cooked last week:
Baked chicken and rotini with three cheeses in a creamy tomato sauce; Italian sausage sandwiches, asparagus in balsamic vinaigrette and fried ripe plantains, and rosemary crackers.

What I ate in restaurants last week:
A big salad with grilled chicken and spicy pineapple salsa at On Tap; sushi, a chicken stir fry and crystal shrimp at Katana’s Buffet in Jackson Township; a ham sub from Subway; California roll and tuna nigiri from the still-fabulous Sushi Katsu in Akron; chicken fattoush salad at Continental Cuisine in Fairlawn; 1/2 Coney dog and 1/2 pulled pork sandwich at Boss Frosty’s in Wadsworth (Tony ate the other halves plus a ham and plantain panini); thin-crust pepperoni pizza from Earth Fare, and ribs and hush puppies from Old Carolina Barbecue.


These Gut Check lists are showing me that (1) I am just plain lazy and (2) I’m cheap, because none of my restaurant meals cost more than $20 last week. I have GOT to get out more. And cook more. Alas, I’ll probably never again have string of exciting meals in fancy restaurants because the expense account is gone. But I will try to add some variety.

As predicted, Tony dragged me to Katana’s again for the all-you-can-eat buffet.This time, the food was horrible. The sushi, which Tony liked last time, tasted like it had been left over from lunch or the evening before because the rice was so dry it was crunchy. The buffet items did not taste fresh, like last time. Even the custom stir-fried chicken and vegetables I had was dull and one-note. Dark-brown chopped garlic, soy sauce and hot pepper sauce were the only seasonings offered. “Do you have sesame oil?” I asked the chef. “What’s that?” he countered.

Maybe the lesson is to go later in the evening on a busy night, after any leftovers are depleted and the steam tables are restocked with fresh items. Or just go down the street to Bombay Sitar.


From Heidi:
I started to spatchcock chickens after indexing the Tony Rosenfeld book, 150 Things to Make with Roast Chicken (and 50 Ways to Roast It). His method is to sear the chicken skin side down in a hot pan and then pop the pan in the oven. But I have also grilled them. Such a satisfying way to cook a chicken!Dear Heidi: Yes, it is. And if you sear the chicken in a pan with weights on top (use a smaller lid and place a foil-wrapped brick or canned goods on the lid), you have the classic Italian Chicken Under a Brick. I forgot to mention that using poultry or kitchen scissors makes the job of cutting the chicken up the back very easy. Also, some cooks cut the chicken on both sides of the backbone and discard that bony piece before cooking.
From Mark:
We rendezvous with Columbus friends at Akai Hana for dinner or lunch on our weekend trips. I’m so happy to see the grocery (Tensuke) receive your high praise.Dear Mark: Tony and I haven’t tried the more upscale Akai Hana, which is part of the Japanese restaurant and retail collection, all in the same Columbus plaza and all jointly owned. There’s also a bakery I want to visit when my willpower is in peak form. The Japanese have a long tradition of making incredibly beautiful and delicious sweets.
From Mike:
I just read your newsletter about the Japanese market in Columbus. My daughter just graduated from The Ohio State University and still lives in Columbus for now. Often when we visit, we go to Japanese Oriental Restaurant on High Street a little north of campus. The name of the restaurant is a bit of a misnomer. I believe the owners are actually Korean and the menu has a majority of Korean items but also sushi and other Asian selections. But the best thing we have found is the Bi Bim Bap — particularly the one known as “Dol Sat.”A super-hot stone bowl arrives at the table with rice on the bottom and layers of meat and vegetables and a fried egg on top. You are given a hot sauce to add. All the items continue to cook and sizzle in the hot bowl. Everything is sort of stirred together but the best thing is leaving some of the rice at the bottom of the bowl because by the end it has become crispy and needs to be chipped off with a metal spoon given to you for that very purpose. It is awesome! The restaurant has a website, japaneseoriental.com, where the menu may be viewed.Dear Mike: I have had Korean Bi Bim Bap but not like this. I can’t wait to try it. Thank you so much for sharing your find.


Please note: If your email address changes, you must re-subscribe to my newsletter in order to continue receiving it. We are unable to change the address for you in  our email list. The procedure is easy. Just click on the “unsubscribe” link at the bottom of a newsletter. Then go to  www.janesnowtoday.com, to sign up under your new address. Thank you.

Please tell your friends about my blog site (https://janesnowtoday.wordpress.com/), where you can find not only each week’s newsletter but archives of past newsletters.

May 24, 2017

Dear friends,

To my mind there’s no better use of a charcoal grill than to roast a whole chicken. I’m a roast chicken girl from way back, requesting one every year on my birthday when I was growing up. Roasting the bird on the grill until the meat is smoky-juicy and the skin is a crackling, burnished brown just ups the attraction.

It wasn’t my birthday last Thursday but the glorious weather just shouted “spatchcock chicken” to me. Not actually, but the Weber was at hand and for some reason I couldn’t get the word “spatchcock” out of my mind. Great word, right? Spatchcock, spatchcock, spatchcock.

While pondering the origins of the word (Scottish?) I envisioned a flattened, bronzed bird with a garlic-orange-honey-thyme glaze. I would use my new mortar and pestle (a behemoth Tony brought home from the Asian Food Market on State Road in Cuyahoga Falls) to pound the garlic into a paste, releasing clouds of aroma and flavor.

I jotted down the bare bones of a recipe and logged on to Google. Here’s the lowdown on “spatchcock”: The word is probably of Irish origin, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, perhaps shorthand for “dispatch the cock.” It evolved to mean killing and cooking a game bird quickly. A whole chicken does indeed cook relatively quickly when it is cut up the back, spread open and flattened.

While gardening and puttering around the house (retirement rocks!), I flattened the chicken and made the marinade, then later set up the grill, then later made the glaze. My 5-pound bird took about 60 minutes to roast over indirect heat on the grill. Most broiler-fryers are smaller, though, and won’t take quite as long. Mine looked like a million bucks and tasted like my birthday. This might be my favorite summer dinner.

  • 1 cup orange juice
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1/4 cup salt
  • 2 tbsp. red wine vinegar
  • 2 tbsp. honey
  • 2 sprigs fresh thymeUnknown(16).jpg• 1 meaty broiler-fryer chicken, about 4 lbs.


    • 1 cup orange juice
    • 2 cloves garlic
    • 1/4 cup salt
    • 2 tbsp. red wine vinegar
    • 2 tbsp. honey
    • 2 sprigs fresh thyme


    • 1 tbsp. olive oil
    • 2 cloves garlic, minced
    • 3/4 cup orange juice
    • 1 tsp. grated orange zest
    • 1 tsp. yellow mustard
    • 1/4 tsp. fresh thyme leaves
    • 1/4 cup honey

  • Rinse chicken inside and out. Place on a cutting board, breast down. With poultry shears or a sharp knife, cut alongside backbone from the neck to tail cavities. Flatten the chicken, skin side up and breasts in the middle, pushing down on the center with the heel of your hand. Trim and discard excess skin and fat. Fit flattened chicken into a 1-gallon, zipper-close plastic bag.Marinade: Measure out the orange juice. If you have a mortar and pestle, cream together garlic and 1 teaspoon of the salt until it is a thick paste. Stir it into the orange juice with the other marinade ingredients. Alternately, drop garlic through the feed tube of a food processor with the motor running. Turn off motor, remove lid and add remaining marinade ingredients except thyme. Pulse until smooth. Pour marinade over chicken in bag. Add thyme sprigs and seal. Put in a large bowl or on a lipped platter (to catch any leaks) and refrigerate at least 4 hours, turning once or twice.Glaze: While chicken marinates, heat olive oil in a small saucepan. Sauté garlic over medium heat until it begins to change color. Whisk in juice, zest, mustard, thyme and honey. Increase heat to medium-high and bring to a slow boil. Boil until liquid is reduced by about half, stirring occasionally, until mixture is about as thick as melted butter. Remove from heat.

    Build a 50-briquette fire in one half of a covered grill. Place an oblong foil pan in the bottom of the opposite side. Soak some wood chips, if desired. When coals have ashed over, scatter the drained chips over the coals. Place a greased grid over the coals and pan.
    Drain and pat dry the chicken. Oil or butter the skin.

    Place the flattened chicken skin side down on the grid over the foil pan. Cover grill, leaving vent holes open. After 20 minutes, turn chicken over and arrange so the side nearest the fire is now in back.

    Do this every 20 minutes until an instant thermometer inserted in the breast reads 165 degrees, about 40 to 60 minutes depending on size of the chicken and how quickly you can turn and re-cover it.

    Place chicken on a platter and allow to rest while reheating the glaze. Pour about half of the glaze over the chicken. Pass the remaining glaze at the table. Serves 3 to 4.

    What I cooked last week: 
Pan-grilled pork chops with a sweet soy sauce glaze; strawberry Jell-O with sliced strawberries and whipped topping; grill-smoked whole chicken with a honey-orange glaze, grilled sweet potatoes; a big salad of home-grown arugula with sliced herbed chicken and homemade vinaigrette; egg salad.

    What I ate in restaurants last week:
The Big Al (turkey salad, bacon, avocado and cranberry sauce on rye) at Gasoline Alley in Bath; Blue Moon Burger with grilled mushrooms, grilled onions, bacon and blue cheese at Wolf Creek Tavern in Norton; a California roll and a salad bowl of green tea ramen noodles, lettuce, cucumbers, grape tomatoes, edamame, corn kernels and stir-fried beef and onions with sesame dressing at Tensuke Express in Columbus.


    The casual Japanese restaurant where I had that terrific ramen salad is part of Tensuke Market, a Japanese grocery store that is a must-visit whenever Tony and I are in Columbus. Sometimes we go to Columbus just for the store, which has the widest selection of Japanese products we have found within driving distance.

    Tony enjoys picking up a copy of a Japanese newspaper and scanning the shelves for the latest cooking gadgets and knick-knacks from Japan. But mostly we go for the food, which ranges from fresh produce (enoki and shiitake mushrooms, kabocha squash, burdock root, daikon radishes, etc.) to thin Japanese cuts of meat to a wide array of packaged snacks, sweets, tea, seasonings, noodles and drinks. Deli cases hold an extensive selection of sushi and bento boxes.

    After Tony and I check out, we usually head to the Sushi 10 sushi bar sandwiched between the market and Tensuke Express. Some people get bento boxes from the deli case to eat at the sushi bar, while others order from the menu. The space is no-frills but the food is excellent.

    You could take your sushi next door to Tensuke Express, as we did, and supplement it with items from that menu, which is mostly bowl foods of stir-fries and rice, ramen, udon and soba noodles, along with chicken teriyaki, fried fish, chicken karaage (ultra crisp fried chicken) and fried chicken and pork cutlets. Beef curry, which Tony had, also is on the menu. Nothing at Tensuke Express costs more than $10.

    Tensuke Market and restaurants are at 1167 Old Henderson Road in Columbus. The website is tensukemarket.com.


    From Sura:
    Your orzo salad reminded me of my summer favorite: cooked orzo, halved cherry tomatoes, garlic, salt and pepper, olive oil and fresh minced basil. The tomatoes are left in the garlic and olive oil for about an hour to release the juices, then everything is mixed together and served at room temperature or cool. It just hits every note correctly.

    Dear Sura: I will definitely try this. It sounds like the topping for a ciabatta pizza I like to make and you’re right — so simple but perfect.
    From J.D. and many others:
    What size hat does Tony wear? I have (or can tell him where to get) an Amish hat he can have (or buy).

    People, people: I thought you were my friends. I do not want Tony to wear oversized denim trousers and suspenders, let alone an Amish hat. His tractor-logo ball caps are bad enough.

    Please note: If your email address changes, you must re-subscribe to my newsletter in order to continue receiving it. We are unable to change the address for you in  our email list. The procedure is easy. Just click on the “unsubscribe” link at the bottom of a newsletter. Then go to  www.janesnowtoday.com, to sign up under your new address. Thank you.

    Please tell your friends about my blog site (https://janesnowtoday.wordpress.com/), where you can find not only each week’s newsletter but archives of past newsletters.Please note: If your email address changes, you must re-subscribe to my newsletter in order to continue receiving it. We are unable to change the address for you in  our email list. The procedure is easy. Just click on the “unsubscribe” link at the bottom of a newsletter. Then go to  http://www.janesnowtoday.com, to sign up under your new address. Thank you.


May 17, 2017

Dear friends,

I’ve never been a less-is-more kind of person. In cooking as in life I usually go big and bold, or at least offbeat. That’s how I came to marry a man whose current fixation is becoming Amish (visually only, thank god). He already has the oversized blue jeans with farmer’s pockets on the sides. He cut the sleeves off a Ralph Lauren denim shirt so they hang limply right below the biceps. He bought black suspenders. Now he wants a flat-brim hat so he can be, his words, “Japanese Amish.”

“There aren’t many of us,” he remarked the other day. Many?! Honey, there aren’t ANY.

After going out to lunch with him in that get-up, I was ready to tone down my life with nude lipstick, mellow jazz and food that whispered instead of shouted. I remembered a suave pasta salad from Earth Fare that appeared to have just four ingredients: orzo, roasted red pepper bits, capers and Italian dressing. I couldn’t believe something so simple was so good.

Of course, there’s no room for error when playing with so few ingredients, so I carefully set about cloning it. My first try was too fancy — I added chopped black nicoise olives and sun-dried tomatoes, which ruined the flavor. The second time I kept it to the four basic ingredients plus salt and played with proportions. My restraint paid off.

If you’re in the mood for a simple, classy pasta salad, this is it. It’s not Tex-Mex or Cajun or fusion or even Japanese Amish. Thank god.



1 box (12 oz.) orzo pasta
6 tbsp. olive oil
3 tbsp. red wine vinegar
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 tsp. sugar
2 tsp. dried oregano
2 tbsp. drained cappers
1/4 cup chopped pickled or roast sweet red pepper

Cook pasta until al dente in boiling, salted water; drain well.

While pasta cooks, whisk together oil, vinegar, garlic, sugar, 1 teaspoon salt and oregano in a medium serving bowl. Stir in capers and chopped red pepper.
Add orzo and toss well to coat pasta with dressing. Cool. Serve at room temperature. Makes 8 to 10 servings.


What I cooked last week: Grilled chicken breasts rubbed with Indian spices and marinated in yogurt; roast asparagus with olive oil, sea salt and lemon; rice-cooker jambalaya; grilled t-bone steaks, Italian orzo salad, roast asparagus and chocolate pudding.

What I ate last week in restaurants: Roast beef, baby Swiss and onion sandwich with Italian dressing at Shisler’s Cheese House in Copley; a chili dog, a country apple pie sugar-free ice cream cone and a gigantic pulled pork sandwich with slaw at Boss Frosty’s ice cream stand on Greenwich Road, across from the Blue Sky Drive-In in Wadsworth; boiled crawfish, crystal shrimp, a sweet potato slice, spring roll, beef stir fry and fresh fruit at Katana’s in Jackson Township.


* Katana’s, where Tony and I dined Saturday evening, is one of the buffets recommended by readers a couple of weeks ago. It is huge and it was packed. There were seven double-sided steam and food bars not counting soup, sushi and stir-fry stations. I don’t know if the food was house-made — most Asian buffet food is not — but it tasted fresh and the items were seasoned better than at other Asian buffets I’ve visited. Even the sushi was good, Tony said. Service was excellent.

“Tell your friends thank you,” Tony said after plowing through five or six plates of food.

Unfortunately, Tony will want to return. Although Katana’s is several notches above other Asian buffets I’ve tried, I’m still not a fan. Maybe it’s the businesslike way diners attacked the steam tables. Even while eating, hardly anyone talked or cracked a smile. It seemed like the kind of crowd that could turn ugly if the shrimp ran out.

But that’s just me. Or maybe it’s just Americans at all-you-can-eat buffets.


As you can see in this week’s Gut Check, I no longer cook every day and when I do cook, it’s rarely complicated. The grilled chicken last week is a good example. Early in the day I rubbed two boneless, skinless breasts with garam masala, an Indian spice blend you can buy in many Asian stores or make yourself (which I have done exactly once). Then In a bowl I squished the chicken around with a cup of plain yogurt. I covered and chilled, then grilled it over charcoal on an oiled grid, leaving as much yogurt as possible clinging to the meat. Oiling the grill is important.

The yogurt keeps the chicken juicy and the spices permeate deeply into the meat. It made a luscious, healthful dinner with the addition of roasted asparagus: trim and rub the spears with olive oil on a baking sheet, sprinkle with coarse sea salt and roast at 400 degrees for 10 minutes. Squeeze some lemon juice over the asparagus before serving.


After chowing down at a buffet you may want to see how the other half lives, gastronomically speaking. If so, go to http://www.thomaskeller.com. In the “restaurants” menu find the French Laundry, and click on “chef’s tasting menu.” You will be transported to a world of duck foie gras torchons with strawberries and wild purslane, and grilled king crab with hen egg terrine and wild ramp emulsion.

The French Laundry is a picturesque restaurant in California’s Napa Valley. Chef Keller strives to perfect every morsel of food he serves in his multi-course tasting menu — the only menu available, which changes daily. I still count the meal I enjoyed there in the 1990s as the best I’ve eaten.


From MaryAnn, Charlestown Township:
Wow. I remember Spanish Bar Cake was my dad’s favorite store-bought item and it came from the Omarket Bread delivery truck. As a rural letter carrier Daddy ate lunch in the car out in the boonies of Southeast Ohio and this cake started moist and stayed moist. The A&P in town was only an occasional stop, but the cake was always on the list.

Also, next time you’re near Deerfield Circle head back to the Edinburg Township line and go to my friend Diane’s coffee shop, the Wistful Cafe and Bakery. Look for the tall signs for the camper place; she is nestled beside it.

Her bakery has outstanding items and I have purchased event and wedding cakes. We have a ladies’ lunch there once a month, and there is a strong community feel. Since she is in the heart of Southeast Schools, she has some dishes that were favorites from the school food service. I love an individual skillet of mac and cheese, or chili. I had a memorable butternut squash soup there last month. Check out her website for menus and specials: http://www.thewistfulcafe.com.

Dear MaryAnn: I drive by there frequently on my way to visit family in East Liverpool, but have never noticed the restaurant. After reading all the raves on the Internet, you can bet I’ll stop the next time I drive out that way. Thanks.

May 10, 2017

Dear friends,

What the heck happened?! One minute we were sweating in the unseasonably warm weather and the next we were getting frost warnings. It’s May! I should be toasting hot dogs over a campfire, not cooking hearty soups!

But soup it was last week and soup it probably will be again this week, hopefully for the last time until fall. In Ohio you never know, though, so I’ll keep my recipe for white bean and sausage soup handy.

A big pot of the soup warmed up Tony and me for several meals. The dipping temperatures were all the inspiration I needed to start tossing ingredients into a pot — first onions, then garlic and sausage, then broth, tomatoes and kale. I used canned white cannellini beans and added them last to prevent them from becoming mushy.

This is a simple soup that’s quick to put together but is satisfying and boldly flavored. Let’s hope it’s the last hearty soup of spring.



2 tbsp. olive oil
1 1/2 cups chopped onion
3 cloves garlic, slivered
1 lb. spicy or mild Italian sausage links, cut in 1-inch pieces
1 tsp. oregano
Salt to taste
32 oz. (4 cups) chicken broth
1 can (28 oz.) whole peeled plum tomatoes with juice
5 or 6 big kale leaves, washed and torn, with tough center stem discarded
2 cans (15.5 oz. each) cannellini beans, drained

Heat oil in a hot soup kettle. Sauté onion in oil over medium heat until softened, about 5 minutes. Increase heat to medium-high, add garlic and sausage pieces and cook until edges of sausage begin to brown. Stir in salt and oregano. Add chicken broth. Chop tomatoes and add with the juice. Add kale. Cover and simmer for 30 minutes. Add beans and simmer 30 minutes longer. Taste and add more salt if necessary. Ladle into bowls. Makes about 8 servings.
What I cooked last week: Rhubarb compote; kale and white bean soup; mashed avocado and an easy-over egg on toast with hot sauce; orzo salad with capers, and smoked bratwurst on buns.

What I ate in restaurants last week: Hot pastrami on rye at Primo’s Deli in Akron; Subway Italian hero; chili-glazed pork belly banh mi at Wolf Creek Tavern in Norton; jerk pork taco, Mexican street corn and carnitas taco at Funky Truckeria in Norton; Chinese pork bun from Park to Shop in Cleveland; and smoked boneless pork ribs, candied sweet potatoes, scalloped potatoes, collard greens and corn muffins at the Sunday buffet at LA Soul in Akron.


The tacos I had at Funky Truckeria in Norton on Cinco de Mayo were the best I’ve tasted in Northeast Ohio. Tacos are the main (and almost only) menu item at the small but hip restaurant wedged in the far corner of Norton Plaza.

If you haven’t been to the restaurant yet, I recommend you try it. If you have, then you’re probably a fan, too, and won’t mind clicking on over to http://www.cleveland.com/best/2017/05/a_history_of_taco_tuesday_its.html#incart_highlight to vote for Funky Truckeria in a contest for best tacos in the Cleveland area. The contest ends May 15, but you can vote once an hour until then to help put Funky over the top.


From Dennis:
If I remember correctly, Tony loves barbecue. LA Soul Restaurant, 1001 E. Tallmadge Ave. in Akron, has a barbecue and soul food buffet on Sundays. I work Sundays and have not been to the buffet but I have had many of the items on their menu and their food and desserts are homemade and very good. No young kids on staff and everyone is very helpful and friendly.

Dear Dennis: As you can see above, Tony and I immediately followed your suggestion and went to the Sunday buffet. The service was well-meaning but almost non-existent when we visited, but the buffet was beyond lush, and everything was indeed homemade. Great fried fish, fried and baked chicken, boneless barbecued ribs and roast beef were just the beginning. There were at least a dozen side dishes not counting salad, and I can personally recommend the collard greens, scalloped potatoes and corn muffins. The cost is $16.99 for all you can eat. Hours are 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily, but the buffet runs to just 7:30 p.m.

May 3, 2017

Dear friends,
My buddy, Dave, is the ultimate audience for my cooking. Heck, for anyone’s cooking. Better known as Coondog O’Karma, Dave is a retired professional speed eater and connoisseur of good eats. Many of our conversations are about food, so I wasn’t surprised when he shot me a Facebook message in December with photo of a Spanish Bar Cake and this plea: “Jane Snow, will you make this for me? Please! Please!!!!

I meant to surprise him, but winter turned to spring and the cake slipped my mind. Coondog was still on the scent, though. “Jane, please make me an A&P Spanish Bar Cake and I will come over and clean up after all the pets,” he wrote a couple of weeks ago.

Okay, okay. It was time. I had not tasted the raisin spice cake since I was a kid, and neither had Coondog. It was an iconic product of the A&P supermarket chain, where my friend was once employed as a stock boy. I remember the cake as dark and spicy with an overtone of cloves or allspice. It was a long, narrow double-layer filled and frosted with a thick, sweet white icing.

Knock-off recipes are everywhere, so that was no problem. I made the cake in a 9-by-13-inch pan and cut the finished cake in half lengthwise for the two layers. The recipe I found came with a recipe for the white icing, and although I don’t think the original was a cream cheese icing, it was good.

At the hand-off Tuesday Coondog vowed to eat every bite of the cake by himself. From the way he ogled the cake, I have a feeling he ate it on the way home in his car. He has been starving lately, he said.

“Lisa (his wife) is on a diet and the meals are killing me,” he confided. “I need carbohydrates.” No problem. That cake is a guaranteed sugar high.


2 cups flour
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 tbsp. cocoa powder
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. ground allspice
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 cups applesauce
2 eggs
1 cup raisins plumped in hot water

8 oz. cream cheese, softened
4 tbsp. butter, softened
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups confectioner’s sugar
Drops of milk if needed

For the cake: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine flour, sugar, baking soda, cocoa powder, salt and spices in the bowl of an electric mixer. Mix briefly on low speed. Add oil and beat until dry ingredients are moistened. Beat in applesauce. Beat in eggs one at a time until batter is smooth. Stir in raisins by hand. Pour into a greased and floured 9-by-13-inch pan that has been lined with parchment paper and greased again. Bake at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes, until the cake pulls away from sides of pan and top is dry to the touch.

Cool cake in pan for 10 minutes, then invert onto a foil-lined counter. Peel off parchment paper and cut cake in half lengthwise. Cool completely.

For the icing: Beat cream cheese and butter with an electric mixer until fluffy. Beat in vanilla. Beat in sugar a little at a time, adding a drop or two of milk if needed for proper spreading consistency.

Place one cake layer, flat side up, on a platter or a piece of cardboard covered with foil. Spread a thick layer of the icing over the top of the cake layer. Top with second layer, flat side down. Ice top of cake only. Dip a fork in water and drag the tine the length of the cake, making subtle back-and-forth squiggles. Repeat the pattern over the entire top of the cake. Cut crosswise into slices to serve. Store in refrigerator.

Note: You will have icing left over unless you choose to ice the sides of the cake, which is not necessary.
*What I ate in restaurants last week:
Gumbo at Constantine’s Marketplace in Cleveland; omelet and fruit at Alexandri’s in Wadsworth; Cheeseburger and onion rings at Swenson’s; Thai chicken salad at Panera; eggs, bacon and homemade potato pancakes at the Circle Restaurant in Deerfield, and thin-crust pizza from Earth Fare.

What I cooked last week:
Pan-grilled steaks with Japanese sweet potatoes; egg salad; Spanish bar cake; sugar-free brownies, and Jamie Oliver’s Chicken in Milk for our 10th anniversary. The recipe for the luscious chicken is from the April 20 New York Times. Sam Sifton wrote, “ It is the sort of meal you might cook once a month for a good long while and reminisce about for years.”

A whole broiler-fryer is browned in a pan just large enough to hold it, and baked with milk, lemon peel, a cinnamon stick, lots of garlic and sage leaves. The sauce is supposed to get stringy and clumpy but mine didn’t. Others have had this problem, and one Times emailer said she solved it by using shelf-stable milk (Parmalat). Even without the interesting texture, the chicken was delicious.



IMG_1595.JPG1 whole chicken, 3-4 pounds
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1/4 cup unsalted butter
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 small cinnamon stick
10 cloves garlic, skins left on
2 1/2 cups whole milk
1 handful of fresh sage, leaves picked — around 15-20 leaves
2 lemons

Heat oven to 375. Season the chicken aggressively with the salt and pepper. Place pot that will fit the chicken snugly over medium-high heat on the stove, and add to it the butter and olive oil. When the butter has melted and is starting to foam, add the chicken to the pot and fry it, turning every few minutes, until it has browned all over. Turn the heat down to low, remove the chicken from the pot and place it onto a plate, then drain off all but a few tablespoons of the fat from the pot.

Add the cinnamon stick and garlic to the pot, and allow them to sizzle in the oil for a minute or 2, then return the chicken to the pot along with the milk and sage leaves. Use a vegetable peeler to cut wide strips of skin off the two lemons, and add them to the pot as well. Slide the pot into the oven and bake for approximately 1½ hours, basting the chicken occasionally, until the chicken is cooked through and tender and the sauce has reduced into a thick, curdled sauce. (If the sauce is reducing too quickly, put a cover halfway onto the pot.)

To serve, use a spoon to divide the chicken onto plates. Spoon sauce over each serving. Goes well with sautéed greens, pasta, rice, potatoes, bread.

* Plating pains:
”A spoonful of sauce slid on the plate looks like the cat’s ass has been used to drag the puree across. It was novel at first, but now it’s done in Los Angeles, Tokyo, London… You have no idea where you are in the world because the plate is exactly the same.”
— Jeremiah Tower in Bon Appetit. magazine


From Geoff:
I agree fully with you about most buffet food being bland, stale and flavorless but the one I like very much, although not quite local, is Mrs. Yoder’s Kitchen in Mt. Hope, a 45-minute drive south of Akron in the middle of Amish country. It has a great salad bar and most of the traditional Amish-type comfort foods but the item I yearn for en route is the wonderful pressure-fried chicken. it has a very light, flavorful batter and is cooked perfectly. The chicken alone makes the trip worthwhile.

From Marty: If you want to try some country-style hearty food, cruise down to Mrs. Yoder’s Kitchen in Mt. Hope. They have both a buffet as well as made-to-order menu. This is Amish cooking and the bread is baked on the premises. It is wonderful. Here is a link to the website: http://mrsyoderskitchen.com.

Dear Geoff and Marty: I had forgotten this buffet in my list of ones Tony and I have tried — probably because he got the buffet while I had half of a hot pork sandwich with homemade mashed potatoes. Don’t know how I could forget. It is indeed first-rate.

From Jenny K.:
A few weeks ago my husband and I discovered an Asian buffet called Katana in the Belden Village area near Burlington Coat Factory. We thought the food was very good and items were replenished immediately as needed. The price is very affordable; the food was fresh and well-prepared. They say they serve Chinese, Japanese and some American.

In the same area is Buffet Dynasty near the corner of Belden Village Avenue and Dressler. I love their coconut shrimp, but I don’t think their other offerings are as extensive as Katana. There is or used to be an Asian buffet in Twinsburg that was very popular. It has been years since we’ve been to the Royal Seafood Buffet in the Chapel hill are but it was very good when we used to go.

From Chris Avers:
The best buffet around is Katana’s at 4758 Everhard Road in Canton, next to Burlington Coat Factory.

Dear Chris, Jenny and others: Katana is now on my dance card. Thanks for the suggestion.

From Judy A.:
Sahara Grille on Dressler in the Belden Village area has a Middle-Eastern buffet that is great and very fresh — kibbee, fatoush, lentil soup, m’jadara, Lebanese green beans, etc. The hours and address are on the webpage here: http://www.saharagrille.com.

The owners of Sahara were the original owners of Sanibel Middle Eastern Bakery on South Street in Akron, and also the original franchisee of Aladdin’s in Highland Square.

Dear Judy: This is great news. I love their food and am happy to hear they now have a Middle Eastern buffet.

From Francie:
I’m with you on buffets but Tony might like the lunch buffet at Bombay Sitar in Canton (www.bombaysitar.com). It’s a favorite of all of my daughter’s friends (especially the vegetarians and vegans) when they are in town. The restaurant recently made the Cleveland Plain Dealer’s list of 50 things to eat and drink in Greater Cleveland.

Dear Francie: I have only eaten there twice, but it was enough to made Bombay Sitar my favorite Indian restaurant in the area. The lunch buffet can get crowded, so go early if you can.

From M.A.:
In mid-Atlantic aboard Celebrity Reflection, I chose the 12th deck buffet morning, noon and night — well, we take most of our nighttime food in one of the tablecloth restaurants, but I check the dinner buffet to see what I missed. While I agree with your general characterization of American buffets, the cruise industry has got it right, and with live prep stations does a limited number of quick-serve items, too.

Dear M.A.: I haven’t cruised as yet. I was holding out for the QE II and its all-you-can-eat caviar policy. Alas, I waited too long and the liner is now docked permanently in Dubai. Does Cunard’s new Queen Elizabeth play loose with the caviar, too, I wonder?